If you, a loved one, or a child are somewhere on the spectrum you may be wondering if CBD is an option? There is no cure for the neurodiversity that autism presents. Behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and alternative therapies may help, but there is no cure. The two FDA-approved medications prescribed by physicians are only to treat those who present a high risk for self-harm. This may have you exploring a variety of alternative options, including CBD for autism.
Please Note—CBD companies cannot provide medical advice and we cannot guarantee that CBD will effectively soothe your mind or body. The data we provide is for informational purposes. Consult with your physician for guidance on all dietary supplements.
What is autism?
According to the CDC, autism affects 1 in 44 children in the United States. It begins between the ages of 18 and 24 months. The spectrum of neurodevelopmental conditions ranges from mild to moderate or severe social, communication, and behavioral difficulties.
Those with mild symptoms sometimes go undiagnosed well into adulthood. In the most severe cases, children and adults are minimally verbal or entirely non-verbal. In moderate cases, children and adults can communicate well, but can’t carry on conversations. Those with mild cases are often considered “high functioning” and their symptoms may go undiagnosed as they are confused with being shy, introverted, or socially awkward.
Creating a routine is often helpful for everyone on the spectrum. Repetitive behaviors are common with severe autism, such as hand-flapping, spinning in circles, and even harmful behaviors such as pinching themselves or banging their head against the floor or the wall. Harmful behaviors are what have many considering the benefits of CBD oil for autism.
How is CBD different from marijuana?
CBD is derived from the hemp strain of the cannabis plant. There are over 700 strains of the cannabis plant, and hemp is low in the intoxicating compound THC. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states, and marijuana’s legality varies from one state to the next.
So, to answer the first question most adults with autism and parents with autistic children ask—no CBD won’t get you or your child high.
How can CBD help with autism?
Hemp-derived CBD has only been legal nationwide since the Farm Bill of 2018. A bit longer in states that participated in the 2014 pilot program. That being said, there have only been a handful of studies to explore the benefits of CBD for autism. One ongoing and promising study is being conducted at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC-San Diego (UCSD).
Dr. Doris Trauner is the lead researcher in the UCSD study. The study is a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover CBD study. This means the participants don't know when they are receiving the placebo or the medicine, and neither do the doctors. Their objective is to determine how CBD could affect the brains of children with autism.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Trauner shared, "We know that in autism, there are some differences in brain chemistry. There are some changes in neurotransmitter systems, both in the dopamine system and in the serotonin system, that may contribute to some of the symptoms."
Secondary studies show that dopamine levels are often too low or too high in children and adults with autism, which may contribute to repetitive behaviors and reduced social interaction. Serotonin, the hormone thought to regulate mood, may be low in children and adults with autism.
"CBD, among many other things, does have effects on the serotonin system with increasing the availability of serotonin," Trauner said. "And that may be helping in terms of social interactions in particular. We're seeing some pretty impressive changes," added Trauner. "Children whose aggressive behavior was daily, it's gone away. I mean, gone away. ... Children whose self-injurious behavior is better, and they're to the point where the calluses on their wrists are starting to heal," she said. "A lot of the kids are more social."
There are a variety of other studies underway to determine the potential benefits of CBD for autism in adults and children. This includes studies on CBD for autism sleep disorders, as many living on the spectrum struggle with insomnia.
Should you try CBD for you or your child’s autism?
As with adding any dietary supplement to your daily routine, you must discuss CBD with your physician. Very Well Mind suggests covering the points below:
- Check with your child's (or your) doctor to be sure that no allergies or sensitivities exist that could cause a reaction to CBD.
- Check with your child's doctor to see if the medical benefits of CBD oil are relevant to your child's symptoms.
- Check to be sure that CBD is legal in your state, province, or country.
- Research sources of CBD to be sure the brand you're using is well-regarded and properly licensed.
- Take careful notes about your child's (or your own) behaviors and symptoms so that you can make a useful comparison before and after using CBD.
- What is the suggested daily dosage, including milligrams per serving and frequency of servings?
What type of CBD is best for autism?
We suggest the same purity and quality standards for all CBD products regardless of why you are adding them to your daily routine.
We suggest that CBD products are:
- USDA-Certified Organic or made with organic ingredients
- Third-Party lab tested
- Have an online third-party certificate of analysis
- Processed from US-grown hemp flowers
- Pure with no toxic additives or fillers
- Clearly stated milligrams per serving
In addition to the bullet points above, Holmes Organics products are processed to filter out the THC to 0.0%. While products with 0.3% don’t have an intoxicating effect, most parents are more comfortable with a product that contains 0.0% THC.
Our oral CBD products are available in Gummies, Softgels, or Oil. CBD oil is your most versatile option as it can be mixed into foods and beverages and applied topically. However, you or your child may prefer to take a gummy or softgel.